Fight Ice with Ice, and Other Lessons from Nature

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2:30pm - 3:45pm

115 Goodwin Hall

Dr. Jonathan B. Boreyko
Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics
Virginia Tech


If you look closely enough, many of the challenges inherent to making innovative materials and systems for the 21st century have already been solved by natural organisms.  Here, I will discuss various examples of bio-inspired materials on which fluids exhibit surprising and exciting behavior.  Inspired by the Namib desert beetle, surfaces exhibiting chemical or physical patterns can control the spreading of water on a microscopic level.  When we freeze an array of microscopic water stripes into ice, the low-pressure about the ice prevents frost from growing anywhere between the ice stripes.  Hence, thanks to our friend the desert beetle, we have learned that you can fight ice with ice!

Nature has taught us many other valuable lessons.  Condensation growing on artificial lotus leaves spontaneously jumps off the surface, taking dirt with it, which can enable materials that are anti-fogging and self-cleaning. By pressurizing water over natural or synthetic duck feathers, we reveal that the critical pressure for water to penetrate the feathers increases dramatically if multiple layers of feathers are used, which could inform next-generation ship hulls.  Inspired by pitcher plants, we show that a wide variety of structured or polymeric surfaces can be impregnated with lubricant to create surfaces that are stain-proof and extra slippery.  Finally, we will show some preliminary work that reveals how the mangrove tree may teach us how to desalinate water without using any energy.


Jonathan Boreyko is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech in the Department of Biomedical Engineering & Mechanics.  Dr. Boreyko received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Duke University and spent two years at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  His research lies at the intersection of fluid mechanics, biology, phase-change heat transfer, and materials science and has been covered by Science MagazineThe New York Times, Discovery Channel Canada, and Popular Science.  Recent awards won by Dr. Boreyko include the NSF CAREER Award, Air Force’s Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award, the Non-Tenured Faculty Award from the 3M Company, and the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities.